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Brandy gets personal on new album

‘Afrodisiac’ is the former teen phenom's first album in two years. By Gail Mitchell
/ Source: Billboard

On “Should I Go,” a track from Brandy’s new album, the singer grapples with her concerns about re-entering the music game.

“I’m sitting on the edge of the industry wondering if it’s all that important to me to get my records back out there on the street again/This game ain’t what I’m used to.”

Trepidation aside, Brandy is jumping back in the fray with “Afrodisiac,” her fourth Atlantic studio album. The set is due in stores June 29.

The one-time teen phenomenon is also busy getting people used to the idea that there’s a new Brandy in town. Now a veteran artist and mature woman of 25, Brandy has endured major professional and personal changes in the two years since her last album, “Full Moon.” Pregnant and married when that album was released, Brandy is now a divorced mother.

Just two weeks before her new album’s release, Brandy severed ties with manager Benny Medina of Handprint Entertainment. Her mother, Sonja Norwood, has assumed full management responsibility under the Norwood & Norwood banner.

Her personal travails provide the principal fodder for “Afrodisiac,” which gives off plenty of attitude, edginess, sensuality and introspection. And Brandy’s sexy, provocative pose on the June cover of Vibe erases any doubt as to whether she’s all grown up.

Tough transitionBut will people buy the new Brandy?

Vibe editor in chief Mimi Valdes contends Brandy won’t have trouble fitting in. “The cover isn’t a marketing gimmick but more about a young woman who’s evolving...Even when she started as a teen, it wasn’t about any gimmick or novelty. It was always about the music.”

Musically, Brandy’s evolution is reflected in her choice of producers. Missy Elliott’s main man Timbaland assumed the production reins from longtime Brandy collaborator Rodney Jerkins. Other contributors include Kanye West and Organized Noize.

Today show

“I really didn’t want to concentrate on being so technical this time,” Brandy says. “I just wanted to sing my heart out and connect with people.

“With this album I explore my versatility. I knew Timbaland would bring that edge, that nastiness that I never had before. I wasn’t old enough or mature enough before to get into people’s hearts. Now I am.”

The first single is the West-produced “Talk About Our Love.” It is gaining chart momentum, thanks to several dance remixes by One Rascal and other producers. Atlantic is distributing double 12-inch promo and retail versions. It is currently No. 39 on The Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Still, an R&B buyer for a major national chain says “Afrodisiac” faces stiff competition from highly anticipated June releases by G-Unit member Lloyd Banks and Jadakiss. “I’m not hearing a lot of people clamoring for Brandy’s album,” the buyer says.

Committed to the music
Brandy was 15 when her first Atlantic album came out in 1994. The self-titled set has sold 2.1 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sophomore album “Never Say Never” (1998) stands at 4.5 million units, followed by “Full Moon” at 1.1 million.

“Afrodisiac” finds Brandy focusing 100 percent on her musical career. Between 1996 and 2001, she split her time between music and TV show “Moesha.”

“This will be the first time we have had Brandy’s undivided attention,” Atlantic co-chairman Craig Kallman says.

The singer has already traveled to Europe in advance of the album’s late-June release there. She will return overseas in early July following an extensive U.S. promotion tour.

For the past month Brandy has visited retail and radio on a cross-country sweep covering 12 major markets. In addition to serving as a presenter at the BET Awards on the album’s street date, she has upcoming appearances on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” “Total Request Live,” “Today,” “The View” and MTV’s “Beach House.” Brandy is also the artist of the month for AOL (June) and (July).

Brandy hopes people will accept her musical transition. “I’m not trying to be edgy, sassy, romantic, vulnerable or whatever emotions come across,” she says. “I really am all that.”